Betwixt

bowler hats

Wiltshire 2001

YE QUAINT Olde inn was near Winchester. The first night we couldn’t sleep for the late summer heat and the back and forth blaze of sirens along the nearest stretch of road. By the time the three or four police cars had converged just below our window and the guy got slammed over the boot of his car, we were up and about, peeking from behind the bedroom curtains like naughty children who couldn’t or just wouldn’t go to sleep.

* * *

LATER, on the road out of Stonehenge, I noticed something peculiar in the rear view mirror.

“Eh … don’t want to alarm you, but why is there a black helicopter following us?”

“Well,” he replied coolly, “if you look out my rear window, there’s actually five of them.”

And true enough, there was. All unmarked and menacing, flying low in a criss-cross pattern. The farthest must have been about half a mile back. I didn’t think they looked like police or conventional military – logic dictated that they were triangulating for mapping purposes. Nonetheless they did seem to stick to our backs. And they were very very low.

“Is there a base near here or something?” I asked.

“Och,” he replied, “loads of them. The place is riddled. Could be anybody.”

Just as he finished uttering the words, two of the choppers got into line behind the vehicle. One dropped to what looked like about twenty feet off the ground. If my loved one was at all rattled, he hid it very well.

“What is this, a f***ing James Bond movie?” For the next twenty minutes or so, I would have been forgiven for thinking that it was.

After a while, it got tiresome. “This is getting stupid now. They must be bored by now.”

* * *

LATER still, we passed by Winchester Train Station. Shifty looking blokes in bowler hats tried to disguise themselves with newspapers.

“God,” I whispered, “it’s like a timewarp to the Sixties. I thought you were joking about all this New Avengers Stuff.”

“Told you,” he said. “It’s a different world down here, you know.”

Jeez, this entire trip felt as unreal as the one to Washington State two years earlier, when only hours after watching Enemy of the State inflight, my camping trip in a black pickup with a survival expert with OCD and a Ninja Rottweiler became a pastiche of practically every movie I had ever seen. Only then the police were following us, just for sticking out like a sore thumb.

Streuth, are all my holidays going to turn out like this?

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2018

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Kiss

lips

IT BEGAN with a kiss. Not a passionate embrace but a soft brush on the cheek.

The feeling of warmth and love from an old friend lingered on beyond the dream and well into the following days …

Like a little seed, the feeling grew and grew until I longed to be with my old friend. All the while, I thought to myself how sublime that Cupid should strike without even so much as the presence of one who I hadn’t heard from in years …

The phone call came three weeks later. He came round for a few beers and we shared stories. He’d sent me a distress flare of sorts three weeks earlier, he said. Yes, I definitely got the message, I said. And then the rest was history.

 

Copyright M K MacInnes 2018

Brothers in Arms

templar

TO THE strains of Dire Straits, I am surrounded by battle in its last throes, a sea of mud everywhere. These fields of destruction, baptisms of fire, I’ve witnessed your suffering, every man has to die …

But not just yet. A trapped horseman is pulled from between his fallen mount and the mire. Am I the one being pulled or the one doing the pulling? I can’t tell which of us is which.

I do not know where I am or who I am other than that I am a man. And I know not how I know but the other man is Rab …

* * * * *

BOTH RAB and I fluttered in the same social circle. For me anyway, the sense of having met before was instantaneous.

It was while walking along a busy street only days after our introduction that I was hit with the cinematic picture of horses flopping about in the mud and an intense feeling of loyalty, brother to brother. I had never had a ‘vision’ with audio before.

Somewhere between a week and two weeks later, I meandered through Leith Links, on my way to the house of the mutual friend who had introduced us. Having never taken that particular route before, I scanned the open green and surrounding buildings. As I did so, got a strong impression of mud where there should have been grass.

The answer to my immediate question came quickly and without the asking. It was my friend who told me that here in the middle of the 16th century, the French had occupied Leith, until they were forcibly removed by the English army in 1560. Like most Scots, I had never heard of the Battle of Leith Links, or rather the Siege of Leith.

A short time later, Rab and I found ourselves blethering – as we were prone to do – like there was no tomorrow. Only this time our conversation took a more spooky turn than usual. Ghosts, dreams, you name it. The situation was ripe for bringing my battle vision into the conversation.

Thing is, Rab beat me to it …

“I’ve been having this recurring dream,” he said. “Well, actually, it’s more like a vision coz I only get it when I’m awake during the day.”

I know what he is going to say. Baited breath.

“I’m in a battle and I’m being pulled out from under a horse.”

I felt my face turn to rubber. It must have blanched, for he said “Not you as well.”

Up to that point, I had told no-one.

I choked “Was it a muddy battlefield?”

“Yes,” came the whisper.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes

Communion

weerobin

THE HOMELESS day centres were either closed or their books were full – my options had run out hours ago. Now it was raining again and I was pissing wet through. The hunger was excruciating.

Rock bottom could not be any lower than this. Too weak to venture any further, I located the nearest available park bench and lay down my weary head, seduced by the very notion of drifting into a deep slumber from which I could never return.

Just as my eyes were half shut, a blur appeared out of nowhere. A tiny bird. Perching itself on the back of the seat, its demeanour was curious, expectant.

“Cheep.”

Sitting up, I replied “Sorry pal. Nothing today.”

“Cheep.” It strutted about then flew off.

Moments later, it landed beside me, this time with a morsel of bread in its beak. Insisting on full eye contact, it dipped its gaze only to deposit it. Then it eyeballed me again, as if just to make sure I knew what to do.

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, I pretended to put the bread in my mouth then snuck it into my coat pocket.

“Mmmm. Yummy.”

Then my wee benefactor was gone.

Infused with just enough hope to drag myself onto my feet, my day just went from bad to better.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

Grey Matter

IN THE thick of a mass murder investigation, a home specialising in the care of Alzheimers patients exudes a distinct aura of smoke and mirrors that somehow manages to escape the notice of the police. Exactly how many secrets is it trying to hide?
Full story here.

Grey Matter is an experimental short story from M K MacInnes, only available on Scribd for now due to formatting constraints and best downloaded as a PDF on a PC. Click pic for direct link to Scribd – free to download and you don’t have to be a Scribd member to view it.

Note:

1. This is a work of pure fiction that should not be confused with real fake news.

2. Grey Matter is a WORK IN PROGRESS. Constructive feedback ever so welcome.

3. I have published it to Scribd, as having a fixed format, I have no control over how it looks in other platforms such as Amazon.

 

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2017

 

The Reference

prayhard

A MAN applied for a job that required three telephone references. Being self-employed, identifying suitable up-to-date referees who were available for comment was not always a straightforward matter, so he asked his live-in girlfriend and former business partner Erica if she could do the honours. To this she agreed.

Three days later, Erica’s mobile phone rang. It was a man who said he was phoning in connection with Roger Duncan.

Old habits die hard. No sooner had she uttered the words “Hang on a minute” and passed the phone to her other half, Erica’s heart smacked the floor. She ran to the nearest wall and banged her head off it, before sloping out of the room and locking herself in the bathroom with every intention of shoving it down the toilet.

By the time she regained her composure and had the courage to show her face, the call had ended. The expression on Roger’s face said it all. For shame, she could not look him in the eye. Maybe if she just burst into tears, that would break the ice.

Just at that very moment, the day’s mail was pushed through the letterbox. Glad of the distraction, Erica rushed to the door to pick it up.

“Well?” barked Roger across the hallway.

No answer.

When Roger went into the hall to investigate, he found Erica bent double, clutching her stomach like she was in agony.

“What the f***?”

Even as Erica pulled herself up to look him in the face, she flapped her hands as though she was having a hot flush. Her face was raw with tears. Each time she tried to get words out of her mouth, she bubbled some more. Roger realised that his girlfriend was having a fit of hysterics.

“What’s so funny?” he bellowed, his face still dead and straight as a steel poker.

Struggling now for breath, Erica held up the brochure she had picked off the floor. Across the front in big bold letters were the words TRY PRAYING

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2016

Moby

MANY full moons ago I flew to Duluth, Minnesota, via Chicago on a business trip.

A few minutes into the return ascent out of Duluth, I looked out the window. Even in the blinding sunlight, I could make out the shape of a very large white underwater creature feeding by the side of a small lake.

At first I wondered whether it could just be a submersible but when it flicked its rudder, I was sure it was a tail. In which case it was most likely a whale. A white whale. Moby Dick to be exact.

I unfocussed my eyes, refocused, then shoved my nose back up to the glass.

Yes, no two ways about it. Until someone could prove to me otherwise, that was indeed Moby Dick.

Nine years later

IT WAS the height of summer in a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands and I was serving a visiting customer. As he happened to be the only one in the house at the time, I was not so busy that I couldn’t stop for a wee bit of banter.

He was a Canadian retired pilot and an avid storyteller. Most of his anecdotes were about flying and the kind of cultural misunderstandings that could arise between Canadians and Americans. What a hoot.

He brought up Minnesota, so I mentioned my trip to Duluth. This in turn prompted me to remember looking out of the plane window and seeing the whale.

“Nobody believed me, for some reason. Even after I found out it was probably a beluga. I guess most people, here anyway, have never heard of beluga whales. You’d have thought I was talking about a unicorn.”

The man proceeded to tell me about the mammoth water tank he had had to transport out of Chicago several years earlier. The beluga whale inside it was resident at the Zoo there. It had taken all the pilot’s flying experience just to avoid spilling the contents and afford his passenger a smooth ride.

My neurons exploded.

“Hang on a minute,” I said, “Chicago Zoo, you say?”

Wheels turned. “My God, but it was Chicago we flew out of, not Duluth. That must have been the Zoo I saw from the plane. Does it have a small natural lake in the middle of it?”

“Why, yes, I believe so.”

 “So I did see Moby Dick … I did, I did! Might even have been the same one … “Hey, what are the chances of that? Thank you so much for confirming that I am not completely insane after all.”

 “My pleasure, ma’am.”

FIN

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes